A huge hole has been burnt in the commercial heart of Assam, indeed of the entire Northeastern region. The Diwali night inferno at Fancy Bazar is said to have been more destructive than the blaze in 1966. There have been other conflagrations in Fancy Bazar, but lessons have not been learnt. Pointing out that Fancy Bazar has grown congested over the years, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has stated that license for selling and storing firecrackers will not be allowed in such markets. Why should such an obvious precaution dawn upon the administration so late in the day? The traders and residents should also have taken more care, for things can go badly wrong in a commercial locality where much capital is concentrated in a small area. In fact, a fireworks and laser show was scheduled at Fancy Bazar on Wednesday night itself from 9.30 pm. The fire broke out about half-an-hour earlier and the show was cancelled. The Northeast Marwari Sanmelan has now urged the administration to check selling and bursting of fire crackers in busy commercial hubs. While announcing a probe, the Chief Minister has also warned that business establishments which flouted fire safety norms will face legal action. But the ADGP (fire services) has stated that most of the stores did not have fire extinguishers. This speaks volumes about the kind of inspections that have been going on in Fancy Bazar. Ramshackle shops, faulty power connections, rrow lanes and haphazard parking complete a chaotic picture where effective rescue operations are almost impossible. As for the fire tenders, some had allegedly neither water nor fire-extinguishing foam. Firefighters found it difficult to approach the blaze as they were not wearing smoke masks and protective clothing. The fire services have long been asking for hydraulic platforms and modern equipment, but to no avail. The administration may have an attitude that life is cheap, but the public must fight this by organizing itself into pressure groups and wrest appropriate protective measures. Above all, it will not do to be fatalistic about misfortune and blame it on fate. To be aware of possible dangers and take timely precautions is to win half the battle against such disasters.
food for thought